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NASA Aquarius Spacecraft Can Test Ocean Water From Space

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NASA Aquarius Spacecraft Can Test Ocean Water From Space

nasa aquarius projectNASA’s first space-based ocean measurement instrument is nearly ready to take flight.

The agency is preparing to send its Aquarius satellite instrument into space, where it will test ocean water from high polar orbit, 408 miles above the surface of the Earth.

The mission will provide scientists with key information about how salinity in our oceans impacts the balance of freshwater and the Earth’s climate.

Aquarius just made the trip from a facility in Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil to its launch site at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It is set to launch June 9.




Aquarius will map concentrations of dissolved salt at the ocean’s surface to learn more about our global water cycle, sea currents and climate.

Ground System and Mission Operations Manager Gene Feldman describes the ocean as the Earth’s thermostat, saying it stores most of the information researches need to understand how changes in salinity impact the ocean’s circulation.

Ten years in the making, the Aquarius mission is collaboration between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Goddard Space Flight Center and the Space Agency of Argentina.

“Just as salt is essential to life as we know it, salinity is crucial to Earth’s climate system,” said Aquarius Principal Investigator Gary Lagerloef from Earth and Space Research in Washington. “Very small changes in salinity can have large-scale effects on ocean circulation and the way the ocean moderates our climate.”

Aquarius will measure ocean salinity by using sensors to pick up thermal microwave emissions from the surface.


nasa aquarius project

The instrument is equipped with technology that will allow it to detect chances as small as two parts per 10,000. That’s basically the equivalent of one-eighth of a teaspoon of salt per gallon of water.

Once in orbit, Aquarius will map the global ocean once a week. Those measurements will be turned into monthly estimates of ocean salinity and will help researchers track changes in salinity over time and how it varies from one part of the ocean to another.

Image Credit: ESR.org

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